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Doesn't Anyone Understand?

It's a bad time to have a cold. Not that there's ever a great time, but, well . . . y'all know what I mean.

I don't get sick often, but when I do, apparently my body doesn't mess around. I spent the night with a kleenex nose-ring (bull-style) and got up at four to do some early morning reading when my bed made it clear that we were mortal enemies. We've all been there, right? It's not fun, but there are worse things.

It gives me pause to consider the people in the world, in the Bible, and even in our spheres that deal with pain and sickness constantly, or at least on a regular basis. If something as minor as a cold can feel so miserable, how much harder is it for those who deal with chronic pain? Chronic illness?

Humans are self-absorbed. It's a fact, albeit one of the worse facts of our natures. It is so easy to just . . . not think about others' struggles, isn't it? We have so much on our plates; every once in a while we toss up a prayer for that sick person but oftentimes our prayers can be me-centric. Please help me with such and such. Please work this out for me. Please make me better in ways x, y, and z. And even if that's not the case, if we do dedicate prayer to those folks, we often get up off our knees and consider our duty done.

I think that's part of the reason why going through difficult trials can feel so lonely: at the end of the day, no human understands our pain—the shape of it, the depth of it—as clearly as we do. And to be fair, can we expect so much from each other? We're all going through things; we all face struggles and storms. Even the most well-meaning, sympathetic crying shoulder in your life has worries of his or her own that are also vying for attention. We need to give each other grace: Satan may try to wring a sense of abandonment or resentment out of your already difficult struggle, but don't let him. Remember that everyone has something. Be extra thankful for every extra mile people walk with you, and don't be bitter or surprised when they have to veer off to face their own struggles, too. Sometimes there is only so much a person can do, and all of us have been on both sides of that experience.

I watched The Chosen again last night, and as always, Mary Magdalene's demon possession was both haunting and heart-wrenching. A concerned friend does everything he can to help her, snap her out of it, but ultimately he has to look her in the eye and say, "I don't know what else I can do for you."

And then came Jesus. Jesus, who healed Mary and knew every jagged edge of her pain and suffering. Jesus who knows us today, just as completely, just as totally. He is the only person who understands our struggles as much as we do—more than we do, even, because he sees the purpose where we see only pain. Sometimes struggling feels lonely, but it's not because we're alone. We're not. We never have to be. He does understand. He is there. And you know what blows my mind?

He has no prior engagements, other commitments, or more pressing heavenly business to keep him from being there with us and for us every moment. That's how much he cares, how much our pain means to him. That is who he is—Emmanuel. God with us. Always and ever, amen.

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